Resting Respect: Paying Visits to Some of the South’s Most Influential Figures

Perhaps you were watching my travels throughout this great State of Alabama this weekend on Facebook.

You may wonder what I was doing, you may also wonder what made me pay visits to the many statues and gravesites in multiple cities.

Well, since sports have been basically nonexistent since mid-March, I have come across a newfangled hobby, touring cemeteries; both virtually and physically to pay respects to those that are no longer here in bodily form, but rather in the presence of God.

On Saturday, I visited a statue dedicated to the memory of Booker T. Washington, a mid-19th-century and early-20th-century social reformer, who believed in hard work, and self-education.

On Sunday, Dad and I took a family friend with us to Mobile, Alabama, to visit multiple cemeteries with several early-Mobile notable figures.

Our first visit Sunday, was to the notoriously haunted, Church Street Graveyard, where the man who created a Mardi Gras Revival in 1866 and 1867, is buried.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him, Joseph Stillwell “Joe” Cain Jr. while in Church Street Graveyard, we saw the famous Boyington Oak that stands just outside the Northwest corner of the 19th-century New England churchyard-style cemetery atop the grave of Charles Robert Stuart Boyington, a mid-17th-century printer and gambler, whom moved to Mobile in search of a better life than the one he had experienced in his hometown of New Haven, Connecticut.

Mr. Boyington, allegedly had become friends with Nathaniel Frost, whom owed him money from one of their poker games but refused to give Boyington the money.

As a result, Mr. Frost would be stabbed, robbed, and left for dead inside of the Church Street Graveyard.

Mr. Boyington would be framed as the suspect, taken into custody, and hanged in 1835. According to legend, his last words, as his feet dangled from a tree at Oakleigh, which is now historic landmark, were “A tree will grow from my heart to prove my innocence.”

After our stop to visit Alabama’s third-most haunted burial ground, the three of us made our way to the 120-acre Magnolia Cemetery just down the road, to pay respects to Confederate States Army General Braxton Bragg, whom I claim is my namesake. We also saw numerous graves of confederate soldiers.

Next, we travelled to the 19th-century, Saluda Hill Cemetery, in Spanish Fort, Alabama, to visit the grave of Zachariah Godbold, the only known Revolutionary War veteran buried in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Moral of the story, pay respects to those that came before anyway you can, you never know what you’ll run across in the process.

Church Street Graveyard sign.
Joe Cain grave, Church Street Graveyard.
Joe Cain and I in Church Street Graveyard.
The haunted Boyington Oak, Church Street Graveyard.
Confederate Monument, Magnolia Cemetery.
General Braxton Bragg and I.
Our Confederate Dead, Magnolia Cemetery
Zachariah Godbold, Revolutionary War veteran, Saluda Hill Cemetery, Spanish Fort, Alabama.
Booker T. Washington statue, Tuskegee University.

A Man and A Cracker Barrel Microphone

I don’t often write pieces about myself, simply I try to keep things focused on sports, with an occasional twist in the middle. But today, I feel like writing about how a microphone that I bought from Cracker Barrel when I was eight-years-old, led to me being able live the dream that I’m living today. Almost my entire life, I’ve known that I wanted to be a broadcaster, but it didn’t begin to take shape until 15. When I was eight years old, my family and I were headed to Spanish Fort, Alabama to visit with my grandparents, as my grandad was in his last few months of life and we stopped by the Evergreen Cracker Barrel where I purchased a plastic microphone as we were leaving. My mom said “You don’t need that, it’s a waste of money.” But to me, it wasn’t a waste of money, so I convinced my mom to let me get it. As we rode down the road, I was talking into it constantly, I kept talking into it when we arrived at my grandparents’ house in Spanish Fort. I used it constantly after that, at that point just to prove to my mom that it wasn’t a ‘waste of money’. I picked up old media guides from various sporting events and began to practice, which was always several hours. Multiple times I was told to be quiet because somebody was watching TV, but I knew if I stopped, I would never reach my dream. So I continued to practice with the Cracker Barrel microphone for years until it broke. Then, I was given my first real microphone several years later and my brother had an electric guitar amp that he didn’t use much, so when he wasn’t using it, I would sneak it into my room and use it for hours. I’m often asked “How do you sound so much different when you’re not behind a microphone,” and “How does your voice get so deep on the microphone?” I’ve been asked this millions of times over the seven years that i’ve been a broadcaster, and I often reply with “One time, I went to Cracker Barrel when I was eight.” I know people are often left wondering what Cracker Barrel and broadcasting have to do with each other but it’s all about that plastic microphone from Cracker Barrel in 2006. If you want to be a broadcaster, go to Cracker Barrel and convince your mom to let you get a plastic microphone, they make dreams come true.

It’s the Little Things in Life That Mean the Most

Lately, I’ve found myself writing off the topic of sports and a little bit more about personal stories. This one might be my favorite. Earlier today, I pulled up Google Earth and searched for 7 Yankee Trove, where my late grandparents lived during my childhood. You might ask ‘Why would you do that?‘ Or ‘Why would you do that?Well, I didn’t do it just because. I did it because I wanted to see if one special structure was still standing in the yard since the home has different occupants now. Many of my childhood memories were made here, from playing “waiter” to playing baseball in the backyard with Big Ken and my brother to hide and seek around every inch of the yard, including the ditch and picnics at the stone table located in the backyard. The structure I was looking for was a bridge that Big Ken built for my brother and I in the early 2000s. We spent many hours, days and years walking across that bridge during my childhood. So I typed in the address and panned over toward the house on my right hand side, as I glanced at the house, I looked down and low and behold, the wooden bridge that my grandaddy hand-built, was still standing, the bridge named after my brother and I was still standing in the middle of the yard in what looked to be perfect condition. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to my brother, my family, and myself, it means the world. It truly is life’s smallest things that hold the most weight and mean the most. Picture: Google Earth.

Big Ken: A Man Larger Than Life

The date was September 14, 1938, 81 years ago tomorrow my grandfather, whom I affectionately called ‘Big Ken’, due to his massive stature, was born. But his stature wasn’t the only thing that was big. His heart was even bigger than his stature. He would do anything for anybody, not because he wanted to brag, he wasn’t that type, but because he simply knew that it was the right thing to do. I can’t recall a time that he didn’t do what was right at any time. Growing up in Bascom, Florida, in the 30s and 40, he didn’t have much, but he was thankful for what he had and didn’t complain about what others had that he didn’t. My dad and aunt often talk about how mean Big Ken could be. But I never saw the mean side of him (thankfully). I think that is because as a person ages, they tend to mellow out. So by the time my brother and I were born 1997, he must’ve been pretty mellow. As we grew up, we would go down to Spanish Fort, Alabama, where Big Ken and Grandma Sherry lived while we grew up. Every time we saw them until Big Ken was in his last days with us in 2006, he and Grandma Sherry always had surprises for us in the back of their black Crown Victoria and my brother and I would run to the car anxiously awaiting the surprises that were inside. When our grandparents visited Wetumpka, we would often go to Fort Toulouse, a battleground which is famous for its history, including being the site where Creek Indian Chief, William Weatherford, known as “Red Eagle” to members of the tribe, surrendered to General Andrew Jackson on August 9, 1814, to have lunch. Well, there’s moss in the trees down at Fort Toulouse, which was built in 1714, but my brother wasn’t aware of that, so he often asked “Why is there ‘hair in the trees?'” Big Ken and I would often laugh and laugh. I also recall lots of time spent playing baseball in the back yard of their Spanish Fort home, the land that their home sat on was used as battleground in the days of the Civil War if I remember correctly. Big Ken even built a bridge for us in the front yard and named it ‘B & B Bridge’ in our honor. If I’m not mistaken he built the bridge somewhere around 2002. I often find myself wondering if the bridge is still standing since the house has since been handed to new owners. In his final days, he worried about us not remembering who he was, I’m sure he went to heaven worrying about that, but that’s far from the case. Almost 13 years after his death, we still talk about him and all of the good times we spent with him, while dad informs of some good times and some not so good times spent with Big Ken. At 6’4″, 200-plus pounds, he surely seemed larger than life and his impact on our lives is still felt today. Happy 81st Birthday, Big Ken, we haven’t forgotten you.